There are a lot of ways to invest your money.
From the stock market to government bonds to real estate, you can get a solid return on your investment and ensure that your future is secure. But one of the best ways to invest often goes overlooked: investing in yourself.
We often tend to think of spending money on ourselves as frivolous or wasteful, but sometimes spending a little money—or even just some time—to treat yourself right is the investment that pays off the most. Thankfully, there are some simple ways that valuing yourself can really pay off. Things like...
A New Look
Maybe the quickest way to see results from investing in yourself is to make an upgrade to your appearance. A new look can give you a boost of self-confidence and invite people around you—a boss, a customer, a love interest—to notice you as they haven't in the past.
There are any number of ways to achieve the desired effect. A new pair of glasses, for instance, can totally change the framing of your face, and if you decide you want to go back to your old look, you still have a new backup pair for emergencies.
Likewise, if you've been getting the same haircut for years, you don't need to worry that you'll end up regretting a new style. Let your hairdresser do something different (they probably know what they're doing...) and if you end up disliking the result, you can usually go back for a free fix-up.
Another low-commitment option is makeup. If you're the kind of person who wears makeup already, you can check out some tutorials for some new ideas. And if you don't wear makeup on a regular basis, you might be surprised what a difference something basic like a BB cream can make.
If you're willing to take your upgrade to the next level, you could try a whole new wardrobe. Or—if you're really up for a commitment—a gym membership and a new diet. It might seem strange to bother, since so many of us are stuck at home these days, but making a change to your appearance can help you feel refreshed and energized, and can pay off in a big way—even if it just gives you the confidence you need to crush your next Zoom meeting.
A New Bed
Speaking of refreshed and energized, as much as a new look can improve your mood, a dozen compliments about new clothes, new abs, or a new haircut can generally be spoiled by a single "you look tired." Worse still, chances are that you really are tired...
According to the CDC, one in three adults regularly operate from a sleep-deprived state. But it doesn't have to be that way. Rather than spending an extra $1000 a year on coffee and energy drinks to keep your eyes open—even if your thoughts are a jittery blur—you can spend less than that amount for a one-time upgrade to your bed and transform the sleep you're getting for years to come.
Proper sleep improves your health, your concentration, and your mood, and helps you tap into whatever your skill set is, so you can kick some ass in your work and your life. So if you're sick of mindlessly snacking, losing your keys, and snapping at loved ones and co-workers, maybe what you need is to make an investment in better sleep.
That might mean finding a mattress that works for you, but if you've already invested in one of the many miracles of "sleep technology" that are advertised everywhere (or if you are otherwise satisfied with your mattress), and still wake up exhausted, you might be overlooking your bed frame.
A creaky, shaky bed frame that freaks out every time you or your partner shifts in place can disrupt your sleep quality so that—even after eight hours of sleep—you wake up tired. Time for an upgrade. One good option, the so-called "perfect platform bed frame" from Thuma is sturdy and quiet, with a minimalist design, and details like Japanese joinery, cushioned slats, and a soft headboard to minimize noise and make your bed as comfortable as possible.
A New Outlook
Of course, it might not be your bed that's making life difficult. Sometimes life is just... difficult. But that doesn't mean you have to just tough it out, because—let's be honest—that really doesn't work. When people talk about sucking it up or toughing it out, what they really mean is suppressing your emotions so they can raise your blood pressure, crank your vices or bad habits up to 11, and congeal into a blend of self-loathing and bitterness that makes you just a joy to be around...
What works much better is talking about what stresses you out and what keeps you up at night. If you're lucky enough to have a few close friends you can trust with your most intimate thoughts, you might be all set in that respect, and you might also be living in the sitcom The Golden Girls—so congratulations all around.
For those of us living in a slightly less perfect reality, the existence of a professional set of ears that have to listen patiently to all our anxieties and complaints can be a godsend. Sometimes they can help put things in perspective, or give you some useful advice to help you work on your issues. Other times, they just shut up and listen while you empty your head of everything you've been bottling up.
In either case, the perspective and relief that therapy provides can make you happier, healthier, and more productive. It can make the world seem a little more manageable. If you have good health insurance it might not even cost you anything, but if not, there are services like Talkspace and BetterHelp that can connect you with a therapy professional for about the cost of one nice meal in a restaurant each week.
A New Skill
The average worker in America changes their employer around once every four years. Whether that means quitting, getting laid off, or finding a better job somewhere else, the fact is that you can't rest on your laurels. With the pace that things change, the job you have now might not even be a job 10 years from now, which means it's never too early to start planning for the future.
Fortunately, there are a ton of options for adding a new line or two to your resume. For a start, there are countless YouTube videos offering instruction in everything from home repair to photoshop. And if you want more structured, academic options, there are free courses in everything from chemistry to grammar through Khan Academy, free language instruction through Duolingo, and free lessons in programming languages through Codeacademy. And a service like Skillshare offers tons of resources for developing all kinds of skills at a low monthly rate.
You still need to invest some time and energy, but if you want to future-proof your resume and waltz into your next job interview with confidence, adding a new skill or two to your toolkit is the way to go.
A New Degree
Okay, you might not consider this one "simple" but it's too obvious not to at least consider it. Because all the chemistry courses Khan Academy has to offer won't quite qualify you to work in a pharmacy. If you really want to change your career path, sometimes there's no better option than actually going back to school.
That could mean going to a trade school for a certification in something like plumbing, or getting a bachelor or graduate degree in a field like computer science or nursing. The options are limitless, but if you choose wisely, the time and money of going back to school can totally transform your job prospects and really pay off.
That's especially true if you can find an affordable option for taking classes around your work schedule. While weekend classes and online courses might not be as glamorous as the ivy league, if it means avoiding hefty loans and earning a living while you learn.
Each degree you add makes a sizeable difference to your lifetime earning potential. So even if you thought you were done with school years ago you might find out that it's not too late to make a big investment in your future.
So if you find yourself wondering where you can make a smart investment that will pay off down the line, don't forget to look in the mirror.
As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.
Extensive Plants and Greenery
A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.
As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.
There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.
Usable Outdoor Furniture
Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.
A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.
Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.
Acting Quickly Out of Emotion
Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.
Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.
Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation
Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.
If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.
Donating Unusable Materials
Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.
Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.
Strictly Giving at Year's End
As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.
With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.
Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.
The Age of Your House
Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.
The One-Percent Rule
An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.
The Square-Foot Rule
Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.
The Mix and Match Method
Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.
Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.